Augmented Reality is Changing How We Shop

Retail companies have a tough job—and it’s only getting harder. They have to sell their products and services to increasingly sophisticated customers who can access any product, anywhere, at any time. In fact, these customers can even research a competitor’s product while standing in the showroom and haggle for the best price.

To compete and succeed, retailers must find new ways to surprise and wow their customers. This is one of the areas Augmented Reality (AR) has largely impacted the industry. According to recent surveys, over 61% of shoppers prefer to shop at stores that offer augmented reality. Furthermore, 53% of those shoppers who tried AR while shopping said it significantly enhanced their experience and satisfaction with their purchases.

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As augmented reality tech becomes more popular and more accessible, companies are creatively capturing consumer attention with AR, especially because consumers are reacting positively to these new marketing tactics.

Of course, consequently, retailers feel pressure to continue pushing the envelope because consumers have come to expect it. Not only are retailers using smartphones and smart glasses to showcase their AR efforts, they are moving beyond these mobile and wearable forms with new innovations in display technology. Retail companies innovatively use AR to catch people’s attention in unexpected ways and places.

Beauty Retailers Have Embraced AR So Shoppers Can Try On The Latest Looks

In the first quarter of 2017, beauty giant Sephora partnered with the AR mirror maker Modiface to create the Virtual Artist--Best 3D live experience that allows consumers to instantly try on thousands of possible makeup looks from many brands with customized tutorials for eye, lip, and cheek makeup. The app then points the shopper to the exact products for fast, easy checkout.

Though Sephora has led the AR movement within the beauty industry both online and in stores, other luxury beauty brands aren’t far behind. Smashbox launched their Virtual Try-On Studio with Modiface so consumers, without using any product, can play around with custom looks that professional makeup artists designed. Smashbox then took it a step farther and worked with Modiface to include tracking which portions of the mobile screen app users are looking at the most. By creating a heat map to understand where shoppers were spending the most time, Smashbox has been able to convert this information into a 27% increase in customer purchases

Estee Lauder, Cargo, Rimmel London, L’Oreal, Maybelline, and CoverGirl are also pursuing their own AR solutions to encourage customers to try on products and experiment with looks. AR is quickly becoming a must-have as more beauty brands are embracing the technology.

Furniture Companies Use AR To Eliminate Buying Uncertainty

The makeup industry isn’t the only one benefitting from using AR to help consumers visualize products. Major furniture companies are eliminating the uncertainty of buying furniture and home goods.

Ever buy a sofa that just didn’t fit? Ever wonder if a lamp would look good in a room? Major companies like IKEA, Wayfair, and Amazon are adopting Augmented Reality tech to better facilitate a more confident buying experience.

In 2013, IKEA launched one of the first major retail AR offerings that enabled shoppers to scan select pages in the IKEA catalog and virtually place the items in any room. Although the initial IKEA app had limited items available and had issues with properly sizing products in a space, IKEA continued to invest in AR. The release of Apple’s ARkit allowed IKEA to expand their virtual catalog and improve the sizing and accuracy of their products. Now, shoppers can confidently place and size over 2,000 products.

Online furniture and decor company Wayfair also launched an AR app for shoppers.  To compete in the fierce furniture retail market, Wayfair has invested deeply in technologies that make shopping online easier for customers. Using the Search With Photo functionality, shoppers can take photos of competitors’ items and search for similar products on Wayfair. Then shoppers can virtually place Wayfair products in any room at full scale and complete their orders.

Mega-retailer Amazon launched their AR View product in late 2017. While AR View offers a similar shopping functionality to IKEA’s, the program also links that functionality to the most popular shopping app for iOSAmazon.com.

Fashion Retailers Are Also Experimenting With AR

Online eyeglass retailer Warby Parker is tackling the paradox of choice and overcoming the challenge of shopping for glasses online with their new AR offering. Consumers often become overwhelmed with the sheer number of options for glasses frames and sunglasses. Therefore, Warby Parker developed their AR app with a Find Your Fit button for the iPhone10 FaceID facial mapping feature. The app analyses the shape of the shopper’s face and then compares that data to their current frames. It also compares the recommended list of frames against what other shoppers with similar facial structures purchased and those shoppers’ overall satisfaction—in an effort to determine the best fit recommendations.

Warby Parker isn't alone in using AR to help customers shop for glasses. Sunglasses titan Rayban recently partnered with a company called Vertebrae that delivers web-based AR experiences. Using the Vertebrae ad platform, Rayban can place advertisements on a shopper's mobile browser that allows them to virtually try on glasses and sunglasses while they are shopping for other products, potentially even targeting the competition like Warby Parker.

AR Has Become a New Way To Delight And Engage Customers

Companies are figuring out how AR can remove the friction and/or pain of shopping for buyers. It’s changing how consumers are interacting with the brands they love. As AR technology evolves and improves, shoppers will continue to expect new capabilities and experiences. The companies that are most successful will be those that best understand and deliver what makes their customers happy.